City politicians found to have engaged in misconduct will now face a long list of penalties – but not removal from office.
On Monday, council adopted a new code of responsible conduct that lays out what can be done if a member is accused of misconduct.
The code was brought forth following issues elsewhere in B.C., including Pitt Meadows, where a council member was charged and found guilty of sexual assault.
The rules adopted by Abbotsford council are based on a template crafted by the Local Government Management Association of BC. They allow for any sanction a majority of council deems reasonable, as long as it doesn’t breach provincial rules or stop the person from fulfilling their elected legislated duties.
Possible penalties include limiting a council member’s informal duties, requiring them to attend remedial education or training, and limiting access to certain city facilities.
The rules also stipulate that the city will pay for the lawyers of any council members accused of misbehaviour – but only if they aren’t found to have engaged in “dishonest, grossly negligent or malicious” conduct.
The code requires members to be “truthful and honest” in all dealings with colleagues and the public, that they treat others with respect, and that they “behave in a manner that instills and builds public trust and confidence in local government,” among other stipulations. The rules also specifically prohibit unwanted sexual comments or conduct, along with any other indecent, obscene, insulting or abusive behaviour.
The code was unanimously adopted, with Mayor Henry Braun and councillors saying it was important to have the rules in place before they are ever needed.
The new policy comes a year after council voted on rules that lay out how a bullying member could be removed from a meeting.